Aliyah Blackmore - 2015 Program Participant

Beach in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

Santa Teresa during Semana Santa

What attracted you to study abroad?

Studying or traveling abroad for an extended period of time has always been a desire, as I am a young female who has had and continues to develop a worldly perspective; Ihave always been drawn to the histories, cultures, and traditions of the world. As a senior at The New School, majoring in global studies, my love for learning about and experiencing the globe has only grown. Studying abroad was always part of my plan during undergrad, to be further challenged, to learn, to be unfamiliar, to ask questions, and push myself outside of my boundaries or comfort zone.

The decision has only made my undergraduate experience better. Studying a cultural group, specific international experiences, and being immersed in and surrounded by a culture, was such a wonderful and powerful experience that I believe everyone must have.

Why did you choose Sol Education Abroad in Costa Rica?

After leaving my study abroad advisor's office with a long list of suggested programs, I felt very overwhelmed with the personal and academic decision, but Sol Education Abroad stuck out to me. The program is not only extremely affordable, but I was looking for an alternative experience, one that would teach me many things, pull me out of an semblance of a comfort zone, and fully immerse me within the diverse culture of Central and South America. After personal reflection, I decided that Costa Rica was calling my soul as the place that I wanted to travel to, and Sol seemed to be the right, unique experience that I wanted.

What was your favorite part about Costa Rica?

There are so many favorite moments that I share with Costa Rica, yet I would say that the culture and diversity of the country is what I favorited the most. Costa Rica possesses such a fusion of Latinx, Afro-Latinx, and Caribbean culture, creating a diversity in music, food, dress, dance, and spirituality. There is also diversity in the land of Costa Rica, with beaches, volcanoes, jungles, rainforests, and much more. For a country to possess such cultural and locational diversity is so special.

What made your program experience unique?

Sol Education Abroad provides a very unique experience taking you on the less traveled road and turning every participant into a traveler, not a tourist.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

Our program directors, Jessenia and Janiva, made being in Costa Rica even better. Both directors were always available, informative, supportive, loving, fun, and most of all, inspirational. In the beginning of the program, I had a few questions regarding the Afro-Costa Rican culture in Limón, and Janiva, within two days, had a book, resources, and a friend of hers who was willing to chat with me. Anything that a student had questions on or needed, both directors always put the students and our experience first.

Eating a fresh coconut in Costa Rica

After a cold and refreshing coconut water, eating the jelly inside is a great snack!

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I definitely wish that I traveled more on weekends to different regions and national parks, but I did create a list of must go places for when I do return to Costa Rica at some point soon.

Describe a day in your life in Costa Rica.

Waking up at about 7 a.m. and getting ready for classes. At 7:30 a.m. to 7:40 a.m., eating a wonderful breakfast prepared by our Mama Tica. At 8:00 a.m. classes begin until 11:00 a.m. (with a 15 minute breakfast at the half point).  From 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., eat lunch at home prepared by our Mama Tica. From 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. either a time to nap, review homework, catch the 12:30 p.m. train from Heredia (where we stayed) to San José to explore the capitals wonders, or a cultural activity organized by Sol. At 7:30 p.m. dinner, and the rest of the evening free for homework, writing, talking with family, or spending time with your host family.

What was your favorite activity outside of your coursework?

I would say my favorite activity or excursion was traveling to Nicaragua for a weekend as part of our program. Traveling to Nicaragua was a very loving and warm experience, but also an emotional one that I did not reflect on until returning to New York. I was at a loss for words one, because of the beauty that I saw and experienced in Nicaragua, but also the pain that I witnessed and felt. Nicaragua, the people, history, and culture possess an honesty, reality, and truth that I am thankful for, and makes it one of my favorite experiences because of the challenges and learning that I experienced.

Getting lost in the vibrant colors of the buildings and textiles, cheap food, liquor, souvenirs, among other attractions is easy as a tourist, but that is, what I would say, separates the tourist from the traveler, something emphasized by Sol Education Abroad. A traveler feels, observes, interacts, listens, speaks, learns, and so much more, both the good and bad, negative and positive. I will be forever grateful that I experienced Nicaragua; the country allows you, as a traveler, to experience a different kind of reality, a challenging reality, but one that is also special. During this weekend trip, for me, there was this juxtaposition of tragedy, but also the beauty of humanity. Our excursion to Nicaragua was a journey of witnessing poverty, tragedy, and suffering, but also a journey of experiencing beauty, light, love, positivity, and joy.

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?

While in Costa Rica I lived with a host family and another student from the Sol program. Honestly, while abroad, if you have the option to live with a host family, take that up, because it will make the abroad experience even more memorable. The love and openness that our host mother provided was incredible, and she welcomed us in to her home as if we were her own children.

Girls sitting on a beach in Costa Rica

One of many loving and warm conversation with Leah, another Sol student

Now that you're home, how has your time in Costa Rica impacted your life?

My journey academically and personally in Costa Rica has had such a positive impact on my life, an experience that I will forever be grateful for. Traveling to Costa Rica gifted me with such a refreshing perspective on life, the experiences of others, culture, traditions history, the world, and so much more. Costa Rica called my spirit and allowed me to truly feel and be. I learned so much about myself as a young female, preparing for the next steps of my life, while experiencing and connecting with others inside and outside of my program.

I realized that while order, planning, and a schedule for life is expected and the common approach to college and post college life, letting go is also lovely. It is liberating. Spontaneity is liberating.

I arrived in Costa Rica, not nervous, but excited to explore and begin this new section and journey of my young adult life. While being in Costa Rica, whether in classes, excursions, concert, beach, bar, aimlessly exploring, getting lost, I felt an ease and the ability to flow with life, which as a college student, approaching senior year, is not always possible. I watched the sun rise and set on the most beautiful beaches, I have danced the night away at concerts, watched the stars illuminate the sky on the beach, ziplined over the most breathtaking views, connected on such deep levels with people, laughed, cried, listened, reflected, spoken, and so much more.

Most importantly I have learned to feel and truly understand and experience a glimpse of what pure happiness and liberation is. Thank you to Sol Education Abroad and all of those that I shared my time in Costa Rica with!